Mercer Estates

Mercer Estates has been growing grapes in Prosser since 1972, the first to plant in Horse Heaven Hills. Of note, Block 1 later became the highly acclaimed Champoux Vineyard.

But the family’s history in Prosser began in 1886, three years before Washington became a state. In 1915, the family began herding sheep; In 1958, Mercer Ranches incorporated.

The Mercer family made their first vintage of wine, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, in 2005. Four years later, their Prosser tasting room opened. (Earlier this year, a second tasting room opened in Seattle.) In 2011, Don and Linda Mercer received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers. Last year, Wine Press Northwest named Mercer Estates the “2016 Washington Winery of the Year.”

Wow! So it’s not surprising that we have been fans for quite a few years now, and Mercer’s recent releases continue to impress. The winery produces three tiers of brands: Mercer Canyons is the most affordable; Mercer Estates is mid-range; and Mercer Reserve has the highest price point.

We were fortunate to receive samples of three new releases — Malbec, Sharp Sisters Red Blend and Sauvignon Blanc, in addition to three Cab Sauvs from all three tiers. First, the new releases.
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Crowdsourced Cabernet

Crowdsourced CabWord first came out two years ago that Columbia Crest was planning to become the first winery in the world to crowdsource a wine through an interactive online experience.

A new website, Crowdsourced Cabernet, was launched, so voters could make decisions through every step of creating the wine — bud break, harvest, fermentation, the final blend and the label.

On June 3, 2016, Columbia Crest’s 2014 Crowdsourced™ Cabernet was released (1,000 cases) and can now be purchased online and in the winery’s tasting room in Paterson, Washington. ($30 SRP)

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.46.29 AMThe two-year journey began when Columbia Crest’s head winemaker, Juan Muñoz-Oca, chose a five-acre estate block in one of his best vineyards, which is used for his highly acclaimed reserve program.

The vineyard can be seen in a series of YouTube videos made during the crowdsourcing program. Throughout the process, he educated and guided the crowd, explaining how much water to apply to the vines, how the temperature impacts harvest and other key factors needed in winemaking decisions. Voters were then given a series of choices to make.

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Ultimately, they decided harvesting should take place at night, the wine should be created with a lot of complexity and soft tannins, and be aged 16 months in 30% new oak barrels.

More than 6,000 people participated in the adventure. Depending on which voter you ask, the crowdsourced experiment was a lark, an adventure and/or an educational experience about the craft of winemaking. The outcome? From the tasting notes:

The result is a beautifully integrated and layered Cabernet Sauvignon from the Horse Heaven Hills. The 2014 Crowdsourced Cabernet Sauvignon has a delicate nose of tobacco, dried herbs, bright cherries and anise. On the palate, the wine develops warm blueberry pie flavors and a silky texture with dark chocolate and toffee undertones. It finishes with a bright, elegant and refined texture.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.32.58 AMBut the program isn’t over. Columbia Crest is embarking on another journey for the 2015 vintage of Crowdsourced Cabernet. Decisions are still in progress so if you are interested, you can place your votes on the website, Crowdsourced Cabernet. You can also follow #crowdsourcedcabernet on Twitter and Instagram.

We enjoyed our glasses of this one-of-a-kind Cab Sauv on the deck, as pictured above and on Instagram. As expected with a new release, the wine was a bit tight when we opened the bottle, but after some decanting, the flavors developed into one delightful sip after another.

Thanks to Columbia Crest for sending us a sample.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

The Estates Wine Room in Seattle’s Pioneer Square

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 12.07.10 PMSeattle’s historic Pioneer Square will soon be the new site of The Estates Wine Room featuring one of our favorite Washington state wines, Double Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon, and Archery Summit Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

On Dec. 11, Crimson Wine Group will open the new venue with a tasting bar, table seating and an area where you can purchase bottles of wine.

Walk-in customers can join in the tastings, purchase wine by the glass, enjoy small bites, as well as food and wine pairings. Yes, Double Canyon and Archery Summit will be featured – they are Crimson Wine Group’s northwest holdings. But other wines will also be available.

Based in the Napa Valley, Crimson’s diverse collection of luxury domestic estates and wine brands also include Pine Ridge Vineyards (Napa, Calif.), Seghesio Family Vineyards (Healdsburg, Calif.), and Chamisal Vineyards (San Luis Obispo, Calif.).

Regular readers know that we have been big fans of Double Canyon since winemaker Jason Ledbetter arrived from Pine Ridge Vineyards, Trefethen Vineyards and Cakebread Cellars in Napa.

At Taste Washington 2014, we named Double Canyon’s 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, from Phinny Hill Vineyard, in our top three favorite wines.

A few months later, Double Canyon was included in our list of top 50 Washington wineries in 2014.

Here are our previous blog posts:
Double Canyon 2013 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon
Double Canyon-New Winemaker, New Wine

We hope to see you at the new Estates Wine Room, where you can stock up on party wine right before the holidays!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Good Value Reds for the Holidays

If you’re looking for good value red wines for the holidays — for your dinner table or for a hostess gift — look no further. Here are four that we recently tasted and recommend: one from Washington state and three from Livermore Valley, located just east of San Francisco.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 6.12.30 PMMurrieta’s Well The Spur, 2011 Livermore Valley ($25)
This unique red blend not only drinks well but also has a great label that is a perfect hostess gift. This Livermore Valley wine blends 31% Petite Sirah, 29% Petit Verdot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc, and pairs well with roasted and grilled meats, dishes with red sauces or rich cheese. Marietta’s Well is one of California’s original wineries, propagated in 1883 with vineyard cuttings from Chateau Margaux and Chateau d’Yquem in France. Need we say more? Oh, one more thing — Murrieta’s Well is owned by Philip Wente of Wente Vineyards, the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery.

Wente Vineyards Southern Hills 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley ($18)
This estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon combines 76% Cabernet Sauvignon with 9% Petit Verdot, 9% Petite Sirah, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Merlot. This is a great everyday wine that is well balanced, with a depth and intensity that showcases the character of the grape. Just like Murrieta’s Well, vines at Wente Vineyards were planted in 1883. Today the winery draws from approximately 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed Estate vineyards.

TateDog 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley ($25)
TateDog’s slogan is “Great artisan wines at nice prices,” which perfectly describes the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. This flavorful, award-winning wine has a beautiful nose with a long finish. While medium-bodied, it pairs well with a ribeye or stands alone without food.

14 Hands Vineyards The Reserve 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills ($30)
Launched by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in 2005 as a restaurant-only brand, 14 Hands introduced “The Reserve” label of wines sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills appellation in Washington state in 2012. This is one gorgeous wine, which received 92 points from Wine Spectator. This beauty would also pair well with a ribeye or a rich mushroom tart. And if you are in Prosser, stop by their new tasting room, which opened earlier this year.

Thank you to these wineries who kindly provided us with samples of their wines. Our sample policy can be found here.

Cheers!